Tales of adventure all over the world using Warmlite gear.

Most Memorable Achievements

Professionally, I am most proud of being the Founder in 1979 and first president of the national organization in my legal specialty, the National Association of Bond Lawyers.  Its most prestigious award bears my name.

A most rewarding experience was my work with MIA Hunters searching successfully for lost  US WWII air crews in the jungles of Papua New Guinea.

My most exciting experience was leading 15 of my friends, on a 16 day trip  through the rapids of the Grand Canyon. On that and a second trip I rowed a raft 225 miles down the canyon from Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek…both high adrenaline experiences.

And the most intimidating experience; crewing on Cloud Nine a 57 foot sailboat in 30 foot seas and 25 to 40 knot winds for five days and nights  caught in the northern sweep of typhoon Lilie  inn 1989 as we sailed from New Zealand to Fiji…but I learned I don’t get seasick.

I had no qualifying skills for sailing, and I was crew not a passenger, and all three sails on Roger Swanson’s 57-foot ketch Cloud Nine (South Pacific, Indian Ocean and North Atlantic) were intensive on the job training for me.

photographer bernie friel

How The Adventures Began

Bernie was still in the crib when his maternal uncle, pinned him with the nickname, Wampy, and no one in his family  ever addressed him otherwise, nor did any neighborhood friends, school  friends, teachers, etc. until in the Air Force it was Lt. Friel, and finally Bernard when he joined the law firm, though many continue to address him by the nickname.

While I did some canoeing in the BWCAW and Ontario’s Quetico Park, it was not until after a lifestyle change at age 38 motivated by a heart attack in 1969 that I indulged in any other outdoor activities.

My heart attack in 1969 marked a significant change in my life. Out of fear and a concern for my family I undertook to develop a healthy lifestyle having no idea where it would take me. but intending that it would prevent an early death. (So far, so good )

Running became my exercise of choice. A mile a day then two, and finally eight which used most of the time I could afford for exercise, and that was my routine for over 20 years. I soon found that the BWCAW canoe trip portages were easier than before the heart attack, and I no longer had leaky tents. In 1976 after a medical okay, I ran my first marathon, and after that I never questioned whether my health was any kind of barrier or risk to physically demanding adventures.

In 2007 the American Heart Association “In recognition of (my) outstanding recovery from heart disease and my lifestyle change” presented me with its “Heart Hero Award”.

What led to later backpacking, rock climbing, mountaineering and back country exploration was a chance opportunity to be the photographer for Outward Bound International’s (OBI) promotional trips in 1977. My friend Dick Bancroft (father of Ann the Arctic/Antarctic explorer) decided to give up that volunteer activity, and I took over for him. That volunteer work exposed me to outside activity I had not experienced  and I started planning my own trips. But I was not just the photographer, I was a participant as well, and learned new camping,  rock climbing, backpacking and mountaineering skills. And in the next three decades I put them all to use.

First rafting was mentored by friends Dan Schaffer and Bill Parks and then leading raft trips in Grand Canyon and ANWR; then solo backpacking in western National Parks and Alaska and leading in the ANWR mentored by Averill Thayer, the first Director of the ANWR.

My heart attack recovery led to an award from the American Heart Association and to joining its speakers bureau. Eventually I put together my own speaker’s program and speak at many organizations  and for several years at the semi-annual Expos sponsored by Midwest Mountaineering a local REI type retail facility.

Finding Warmlite

One of my law partners introduced me to Warmlite. I was still using WWII surplus for canoeing and camping. [Which] was heavy and bulky. Wool sleeping bags and large heavy leaky tents, awful for portaging and not that great in camp.

Warmlite tents were a magnificent change and the triple bag with a DAM a wonderful opportunity for a good night’s sleep.

Jack was then still in Woodland Hills, and I was soon the owner of  5R and 3R tent models promptly improving my speed over a portage, and my comfort on a rainy night. And eventually when I began solo hiking and backpacking a smaller 2R tent was added.

As your tent models improved  (I still have all those original catalogs) and added new features I added new Warmlite tents. Warmlite tents and sleeping bags have provided me with shelter and comfort in the BWCAW, the Quetico Park, Denali N.P. Haleakala Crater, Papua New Guinea, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,Tanzania, Wonderland Trail, Kodiak, AK Bear Refuge, Chaco Canyon, the Bisti Wilderness, the Black Rock Desert, Grand Canyon, Cataract Canyon, Prince William Sound, Death Valley, Gold Butte, Basin and Range, Great Basin N.P., Yellowstone, Glacier, Banff, Jasper, Big Bend, Capitol Reef, Natural Bridges, White Sands, Guadalupe Mountain NP, Valley of Fire, Badlands NP, Black Hills, Canyonlands, Valley of the Gods, Palo Duro State Park, Caprock Canyon State Park, Great Sand Dunes, Chilkoot Trail, Pico de Orizaba, Mexico, Everglades, Craters of the Moon, Lava Beds, Lassen NP, Redwoods NP Olympic NP, Organ Pipe Cactus NM, Bosque del Apache, etc.

warmlite tent pitched in field by mountain

First mountain was Wheeler Peak, Great Basin NP in 1987; the next decade Mount Ellinor, Mount Rainier (twice) Mount St. Helens and Mount Kilimanjaro; and in that same time frame unsuccessful attempts of Rainier, Pico de Orizaba in Mexico and the Chilkoot Trail in Alaska. Wheeler, St. Helens. Ellinor and the Chilkoot were all solo efforts.

The Golite [Jack-Pack] backpack was a favorite piece of equipment. It was far more comfortable than any other pack I used. It carried 83 pounds on a ten day hike in the ANWR. I did wish that I had weighed it before I departed. And that external frame provided just the braking mechanism I needed when I was moving too fast as I glissaded down the Mt. St. Helens snowfield. Leaning back a bit planted the ends of the frame in the snow braking nicely. I also used the camera case with the pack….not the best Warmlite idea. If Jack were still alive I expect he would disagree.

One matter that requires no context is my use and dependence on Warmlite gear. Whenever I canoed, kayaked, hiked, backpacked,  rafted or climbed after my first purchase in the early 1970’s I relied on Warmlite tents, triple sleeping bags, and Golite backpacks which never let me down. That is nearly 50 years with the very best “warm” and “light” equipment and counting.

Other Achievements

Because of changes in Minnesota laws my lawyer work changed after 1970. I was put in charge of our Municipal Bond Department. My expertise in that field resulted in my selection by the Governor to serve on a state agency which I chaired during the 1970s. It was during those same years that I helped organize a national education program for Municipal Bond Lawyers and that I founded and led the National Association of Bond Lawyers. Its most prestigious award bears my name.

In 1985 I left my law firm Briggs and Morgan for five years to serve as Vice Chairman and General Counsel of related corporations providing services in the Federal Guaranteed Student Loan Program.

In the mid 1990s I became a member of the North American Nature Photography Assn. eventually serving as Treasurer and President. It was there that I sharpened my skills as a photographer, and now have two agents who handle my stock photography. My photographs have been published in numerous magazines, books calendars, galleries, and websites nationally and internationally.

My work with MIA (missing in action) Hunters searching for WWII air crews in the jungles of Papua New Guinea was 2006-2017 and I also served on its board.

sail boat in large waves
"One matter that requires no context is my use and dependence on Warmlite gear. Whenever I canoed, kayaked, hiked, backpacked, rafted, or climbed after my first purchase in the early 1970's I relied on Warmlite tents, triple sleeping bags, and Golite [Jack Pack] backpacks which never let me down. That is nearly 50 years with the very best "warm" and "light" equipment and counting."

In Retirement

In my retirement I am a professional nature photographer and I served on the board and as treasurer and president of the North American Nature Photography Assn. I am currently represented by two  stock photography agents who sell my work internationally.

My photography and film work and adventure travel led several acquaintances, Ann Bancroft being one, to sponsor me for membership in The Explorers Club, and I am very proud to be a member of such a prestigious organization.

For many years I was a member of the Commemorative Air Force. I did the photography at its air shows. I also did a lot of photography at the Oshkosh, WI air show one of the biggest in the US. I really love the aircraft of WWII and really enjoy air shows that feature them. My only “title” would be my rank as Captain while in the US Air Force Reserves.

Written by Bernie Friel, edited by Jessica Marie Cunningham.

Pictures and videos provided by: Bernie Friel


Bernie Friel recently traveled to Winnemucca, NV to photograph the Annular Solar Eclipse. Car camping using a triple bag with DAM. Then spent another week on the road photographing the backcountry of several of our National Parks and Monuments.


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green warmlite tent pitched in forest


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